Friday, March 28, 2008

moon over parma

on the eve of my relocating to live with old friends as new roommates, i can't help but think about the place i grew up and spent 15 of my 24 years.

out of my friends growing up, i lived the closest to the cleveland border, off the interstate, just a few blocks away from the area code change, in a city-sized suburb with a reputation for democrat voters, poor fashion sense, and a racist attitude.

this wasn't necessarily always directed at minorities either, like the time my croatian neighbor down the street had a fit because the serbian guy on the next street over was having a party and was playing old serbian songs, though the two of them had never met face-to-face. he told my dad to call the police, which was something he didn't do.

as the older generation has moved on, it's becoming less that way, and the street i grew up on now includes lebanese and vietnamese families, and the neighborhood has middle eastern grocery stores and indian restaurants, a mosque and a hindu temple along with the polish meat shops and onion domes of the orthodox churches.

ironically, when i went to college, even though demographically my campus was more diverse, it didn't seem that way because everyone mostly stuck with their own little enclaves, and i didn't hear three or four different languages spoken around me, there were no kids with tricked-out honda civics listening to euro-techno hanging out at the park or the coffee shop, no lebanese kids on motorized scooters, no indian grocery stores or strip-mall vietnamese restaurants.

but the stigma of the past forty years remains, and i'll still hear those attitudes espoused by people who also grew up in blue-collar families similar to my own, to the point where i've been around people from the east side and feel embarrassed to admit where i come from even if there really shouldn't be any shame at all. or people from the suburbs that tend to have more college professors than chevy plant workers who assume that you're unenlightened trash that probably watches nascar and wrestling and listens to ac/dc.

because a lot of people i know from here are good people, open-minded people, and humble people, who poke fun at where they've grown up but get offended if someone from cleveland heights does.

at least in the people i hung out with, who preferred various genres of metal and punk, everyone seems to know each other somehow, or know someone who knows someone, and when you're far from home you find a kinship with those people who grew up with unpronounceable last names and hybrid lineages: polish/irish, lebanese/slovak, ukrainian/hungarian, who grew up assuming that everyone knew what kielbasa and pierogies were, that our long ethnic last names weren't weird, or that everyone wore white tube socks (i remember being at a party at kent state and realizing that me and another guy from parma were the only ones rocking the things).

as i move out of there for the first time in two years, i wonder how it will continue to evolve and change, and how long it will take to shed its reputation as the previous generation passes on and others move in to take their place.

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